|Cultural origins||1990s, Europe|
Ambient techno (also known as intelligent techno) is a 1990s offshoot of techno and ambient music that united the atmospheric textures of ambient music with the melodic and rhythmic elements of techno and electro. It was pioneered by electronic artists such as Carl Craig, B12, Aphex Twin, The Orb, Higher Intelligence Agency, and Biosphere.
AllMusic states that ambient techno blended the "soaring, layered, aquatic atmospheres of beatless and experimental ambient" with techno's "well-produced, thin-sounding electronics; minor-key melodies and alien-sounding samples." Artists returned to the instruments of the Detroit techno and Chicago house scenes, including analogue synthesizers, the Roland TB-303 bass machine, and the TR-909 drum machine, while also drawing on ambient and chillout elements. The style would be associated with labels such as Warp, Apollo, GPR, and Beyond, with releases focusing more on albums than 12-inch singles.
Ambient techno departed from the communal, dance-oriented sound heard at raves and instead saw popularity as a form of "electronic listening music." Critic Simon Reynolds characterized the style as a "post-rave genre" and "a digital update of nineteenth century programme music," comparing it to "the aqua-mysticism and forest idylls of Claude Debussy." Justin Farrar of The Dowsers stated that the genre is diverse and nebulous, mirroring "its fuzzy textures and formless expanses."
The genre emerged in the first half of the 1990s as "something of a cerebral chill-out tonic to rave’s relentless pounding." The 1984 album E2-E4 by German musician Manuel Göttsching was an early influence on ambient techno works by Carl Craig, the Black Dog, and The Orb. The Orb's 1991 album Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld would influence subsequent dub-influenced ambient techno. Aphex Twin's 1991 recording "Analogue Bubblebath" would also signal a shift toward meditative, ambient-leaning techno. Producer Pete Namlook also released a prodigious amount of music in the genre, starting the label Fax and becoming a "spiritual leader" of the movement. According to AllMusic, early classics of the style included albums such as the Orb's U.F.Orb (1992), Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992), Ultramarine's Every Man and Woman Is a Star (1991), and Biosphere's Microgravity (1991).
The release of Warp's Artificial Intelligence compilation in 1992 helped to establish the genre and featured artists such Aphex Twin and B12 under aliases, Autechre, Richie Hawtin, and the Orb's Alex Paterson. During the 1990s, compilation series such as Chill Out or Die explored ambient techno and house. The genre would move toward a darker sound reminiscent of Brian Eno's notion of "environmental music" with releases such as Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II (1994). In 1995, producer Wolfgang Voigt began releasing influential ambient techno projects as Gas, bringing together lush and expansive atmospheres with 4/4 minimal techno beats.
- "Ambient Techno - Genre Overview". AllMusic. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
- Reynolds, Simon (2012). Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. Soft Skull Press. pp. 156–7.
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- Farrar, Justin. "The Best Ambient Techno". The Dowsers. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
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- Barr, Tim (2000). Techno: A Rough Guide. Rough Guides. p. 222.
- Bush, John. "Every Man and Woman Is a Star – Ultramarine". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
- The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume 11. Bloomsbury. 2017. p. 168.
- Reynolds, Simon (2012). Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. Soft Skull Press. p. 178.
- "Gas: Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 April 2018.